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Acupuncture can help xerostomia (dry mouth) that results from radiation therapy

Acupuncture for Xerostomia

Acupuncture can help xerostomia (dry mouth) that results from radiation therapy



“Admittedly, we were initially quite surprised at the beneficial effect of acupuncture under these circumstances; responses were seen in many patients who had previously been quite miserable.”

Johnstone et al, 2001



Xerostomia refers to the experience of a dry mouth and is a common side effect of radiation therapy for head and neck cancers. It can be very distressing and negatively impact on people’s quality of life.


Several studies have looked at the use of acupuncture to help patients experiencing this troubling side effect. Western researchers have difficulty understanding how and why acupuncture can help – but regardless of this lack of understanding, the results so far are very promising.


One group of researchers examined the effect on one acupuncture point on healthy volunteers and discovered changes in saliva flow and brain activity. There is no known function in our scientific world view to explain this effect.


Even though the scientific view can’t explain the effects, studies with patients going through radiation therapy, or with a past history of radiation therapy, suggest that acupuncture may be a very useful treatment for some people with xerostomia as a result of radiation therapy. It can help relieve the symptoms and increase quality of life and wellbeing.


If you would like to find out how we can help you, please feel free to request a Free Consultation where we can discuss your unique situation.


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Pfister DG, Cassileth BR, Deng GE, et al. Acupuncture for Pain and Dysfunction After Neck Dissection: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2010;28(15):2565-2570. doi:10.1200/JCO.2009.26.9860

Blom M, Dawidson I, Fernberg JO, Johnson G, Angmar-Månsson B. Acupuncture treatment of patients with radiation-induced xerostomia. Eur J Cancer, B, Oral Oncol. 1996;32B(3):182-190.

Deng G, Hou BL, Holodny AI, Cassileth BR. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) changes and saliva production associated with acupuncture at LI-2 acupuncture point: a randomized controlled study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2008;8:37. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-8-37

Cho JH, Chung WK, Kang W, Choi SM, Cho CK, Son CG. Manual acupuncture improved quality of life in cancer patients with radiation-induced xerostomia. J Altern Complement Med. 2008;14(5):523-526. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.0793

Meng Z, Garcia MK, Hu C, et al. Randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for prevention of radiation-induced xerostomia among patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Cancer. 2012;118(13):3337-3344. doi:10.1002/cncr.26550

Johnstone PAS, Inouye WS. Acupuncture for pilocarpine-resistant xerostomia following radiotherapy for head and neck malignancies. 2001;50(2):5.

Garcia MK, McQuade J, Haddad R, et al. Systematic Review of Acupuncture in Cancer Care: A Synthesis of the Evidence. J Clin Oncol. 2013;31(7):952-960. doi:10.1200/JCO.2012.43.5818

Image credit
Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash


This post is brought to you by Lois Nethery, acupuncturist and Chinese medicine herbalist at Ocean Acupuncture in Curl Curl on Sydney's Northern Beaches.

Disclaimer - Ocean Acupuncture is a natural medicine centre of independent health practitioners. The views expressed in this blog are the author's only and do not necessarily reflect the views of all Ocean Acupuncture practitioners. The information presented in this blog, and on the Ocean Acupuncture website, is for interest and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for health or medical information or advice. For health or medical advice, please consult your health professional.

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